Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Marxist Mysticism

If the bribes are paid and the clients loyal, what else must a Chinese official do to ensure success?

China Officials Seek Career Shortcut With Feng Shui
As Marxist ideology has faded in China, ancient mystical beliefs once banned by the Communist Party are gaining ground…

This mystical revival is attracting devoted followers in that most forbidden of realms: the marbled, atheistic halls of Chinese officialdom. Besieged by a meddlesome public at the gates and political rivals amid their ranks, the country’s ambitious civil servants are increasingly — if discreetly — seeking supernatural shortcuts to wealth and power, much to the dismay of party ideologues and campaigners against corruption.

From rural township party chiefs to the nation’s disgraced former rail minister, Chinese government officials are increasingly making budgetary decisions to fulfill their own personal prophecies, according to experts, state news media reports and seasoned soothsayers.

In all this mysticism ordinary Chinese see little but corruption in drag…

Such was the case with Liu Zhijun, the former railway minister. While building the world’s largest high-speed rail network, Mr. Liu reportedly consulted a feng shui master who chose auspicious dates for breaking ground on major construction projects…

Fired in 2011, Mr. Liu was charged last month with corruption and abuse of power. In addition to the charges of taking $157 million in bribes and maintaining a harem of 18 mistresses, he is accused of an especially profane crime: “belief in feudal superstitions.”…

Citizens furious over officials dabbling in publicly financed mysticism have found an unlikely ally in the Communist Party… Though the government has taken a more laissez-faire approach to spirituality since the bloody persecutions of the Cultural Revolution 40 years ago, the authorities remain suspicious of competing dogma…

According to a 2007 report by the Chinese Academy of Governance, 52 percent of the nation’s county-level civil servants admitted to believing in divination, face reading, astrology or dream interpretation…

Feng shui, in fact, provides useful opportunities for businesspeople to curry favor with influential bureaucrats. To avoid exposure, officials often use business contacts to introduce them to a clairvoyant and pay for the consultation, which can be pricey. Mak Ling-Ling, 46, a Hong Kong feng shui consultant who frequently travels to the mainland, charges $16,000 for an hourlong presentation on auspicious real estate investing…

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